You And I
You And I10 mins 49 10 mins 49
Picture this: You and I. Sitting at a bar. You order a drink of your choice. I order an orange juice. You know nothing about me, except for the fact that I am a writer, which I told you moments ago.
“A writer, eh?” You say as the waitress brings our drinks in a rather dirty looking tray. You take a long, hard look at her as she walks away, but then quickly put your eyes back on your glass, realising that my eyes are on you. Did I catch you taking a peek?
I smile feebly. “Yep,” I finally answer your question. Which question? The one you asked? Or the one you didn’t. You can’t say for sure.
“So, what do you write about?”
“Incoherent rambling disguised as thrillers.”
You break into a laugh. “Surely they are not as bad as you are making them out to be,” you reply, while thinking, “What a self-effacing douche!”
“What about you? What do you do?” I ask, eager to shift the topic away from myself.
You take a moment to sip a small amount of your drink, then answer my question. You talk about the career you are pursuing. You talk about your hobbies. It strikes you that somehow those two things are polar opposites. You wonder how did your life get so shitty, about the choices you made, about the actions that followed.
“Anyway…” you finally break out of your thoughts, ending the thirty-second-long uncomfortable silence. “I am a crime aficionado myself.”
“Yes!” You answer, your eyes gleaming now. “I like to read mysteries, both real and fictional.”
“Just read them? Don’t you try solving them?” I question again, all too happy that I managed to shift the conversation elsewhere.
“As far as the real cases go, I do get hunches. Inspired guess, if you will. But since ordinary folks like us don’t have access to all the evidence and statements, it is tough to reach a definite conclusion. Take, for instance, the recent suicide of that famous celebrity, only that I don’t think it’s a suicide. From all the data in public domain, it looks like a murder. And I’m pretty sure there’s someone higher up trying to hush things down.” You take another sip from your drink; your throat dried up courtesy of the monologue.
“Interesting. And what about fictional mysteries?” I ask, lifting my glass and finishing the juice in three big gulps.
“Well, fiction is a whole different ball game. I usually manage to find the culprit before the protagonist does. After all, there are only so many tropes that writers can use.”
“Hmmm… Impressive,” I say, slightly offended. “A wee bit difficult to believe, but impressive nevertheless.”
“You don’t believe me? Well, let’s play a game. You give me the plot of any one of your stories, and I will try to find the culprit.”
I have no qualms in giving you the plot, believe me. But doing so will force me to speak, and that’s something I am not really a big fan of. So, I reply, “Eh? I don’t think that’s necessary, mate. I believe you.”
“Come on, it’ll be fun.”
If I had a dollar for every time someone said ‘it’ll be fun’ and it wasn’t, Jeff Bezos would be taking a loan from me.
“Well, alright,” I reply, thinking of a story that would be both tough and short. “Okay, so, it’s a story that I came up with a while back. I haven’t penned it down yet, but the gist of the story is in my head.
“Imagine you are a journalist. Your boss has asked you to conduct a sting operation on a famous politician in your city. You hire a private investigator to tail the politician at all times, trying to figure out a chink in his armour. For a couple of weeks, your plan works well. You get your hands on some of his secrets that will make a good one hour special.”
I pause, taking some time to recollect relevant information rather than confusing you with unnecessary details.
“All of a sudden, you receive news from your private eye that the politician is found dead in a small apartment about which no one knew. The apartment served as the headquarters for all of his dirty work, and no one had access to it, not even his most trusted confidantes. But unbeknownst to him, you put a private eye on his tail. And hence, three more people know about the apartment’s secret – you, the detective and your boss, who was receiving daily updates from you.
“When the police begin their investigation, you three are the ones cornered. The detective states that he was keeping an eye on the politician from his car, and this fact is corroborated by the CCTV recordings of a nearby vendor. Your boss states that during the time of murder, he was at his home with his wife, and so, he has an alibi.
“That leaves you. You state that you were in a coffee house, but unfortunately, the place had no CCTV and barely any visitors. In short, you have no alibi.”
“Yep, could’ve guessed that coming all right,” you remark with a grin.
“The police cannot charge you due to lack of evidence, but you are definitely their prime suspect. To save your ass, you start your own investigation and find that your boss had a major deal pegged with the politician, but at the last moment, the latter backed out, leading to severe losses for your boss. That gives your boss a motive of murder.
“At this point in the story, I finally reveal the murderer. So, who do you think did the deal?” I ask, finishing my narration, the most I have spoken in my entire life.
“How did the politician die?” you ask.
“Ah, sorry. Forgot to mention this point. His throat was sliced by a butcher’s blade.”
You ponder over the facts, trying to analyse each possibility one by one.
“I mean, obviously, the boss can’t be the murderer because he is the most obvious choice,” you finally speak.
“Hmmm, sound deduction, but you could have deduced that even from the facts that I mentioned. The boss was already conducting a sting on him, and that was going successfully since you, I mean, the journalist, were finding his secrets. So, the boss’s plan of ruining the politician’s reputation was already going well.”
“Yeah, right,” you reply, not sounding too impressed. “That leaves the detective as the only option… Wait. The politician could have committed suicide. Nope. Who kills himself by slicing his own throat? So, that leaves the detective. He could have hacked the CCTV camera and put it on loop –”
“He could have, if he was James Bond. Unfortunately, this is a slightly realistic story that doesn’t have a plot armour.”
“Well, one of them got to have done it, right?”
I shrug. “I’ll need a final answer now, mate. Make up your mind.”
“Jesus!” You whisper. “Wait. Maybe the politician had a wife who had found out about –”
“I can assure you that that didn’t happen. As I said, the information I provided is enough to help you crack the mystery.”
“You dismissed both the boss and the detective yourself, unless you were bluffing with me.”
“Well, I never dismissed them explicitly. I just pointed what you could have thought in the case of the boss. And in the case of the detective, I told you what he couldn’t have done. Could they have committed the murder some other way? That’s for me to know and for you to find out,” I reply, my lips curling into a half-smile. Evidently, I am enjoying this more than you. This is really fun. I cannot stop grinning.
You intertwine your fingers and rest your chin on them, brooding over the facts. You replay my words in your head. “The boss couldn’t have done it,” you think. “No writer chooses the most obvious suspect as the murderer. Also, there’s absolutely no chance of suicide. The detective… How else could he have killed the politician?”
You keep thinking of other ways for the detective, but come up empty handed.
“Come on, mate! Choose one. Who did the deed?”
You look at your half-finished drink and gulp it down in one go. It tastes horrible, but that’s the least of your problems. You loosen your tie, sweat dripping from your forehead. The annoying tie, making you feel nervous. The annoying tie, the annoying drink, the annoying bar, and last, but not the least, the annoying-ass writer with his stupid face and his stupid smile, looking at you with pity. Looking like he knows that he has outwitted you, outsmarted you, outplayed you and brought you to the brink of humiliation.
At that very moment, your brain starts playing a quote from your childhood. A quote from a very wise man that you read when you were younger, more passionate, more dedicated and probably, a lot smarter.
‘Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’
And then it hits you. The light bulb inside your head glows so brightly that you look up over your head to check if it’s real.
“The journalist. The journalist killed the politician because no one else could have.”
The lopsided grin on my face evaporates in a jiffy, as if blipped out of existence by Thanos’ snap. My shell-shocked, expressionless visage is enough indication that you have got the correct answer.
“It’s the classic trope of the unreliable narrator, isn’t it? You told me everything from the journalist’s point of view, except for the moment when he actually commits the crime. You thought that I’d never even consider him to be suspect, because I’m seeing everything through his lens. Because I am him. But unfortunately for you, I am too smart to fall for that.” You proclaim. “In your face, sucka!”
“Indeed,” I say, clapping my hands, though internally I am thinking, “Damn it! Should have given a tougher mystery to this pumpkin-headed dipshit.”
“So why did I, I mean, the journalist, kill the politician?” you ask, with a grin so wide that your lips might start touching at the back of your head.
“Well, it’s a bit complicated but I explain it later in the story. The gist is that the politician helped in the killing of the journalist’s younger sister. When the journalist found this info in a document sent by the detective, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He had already found the paperwork that had the details about the cancelled deal between the boss and the politician, and so, it was easy for him to frame the boss.” I stand up, ready to leave.
“Wait,” you call. “How does the story end?”
“I haven’t thought of that, yet,” I answer. Although, I decide on the spot that I wouldn’t be penning down this story anyway. It would always remind me of the humiliation I suffered at your hands.
“So, how long does it take for you to come up with a story?” you ask. All of a sudden, you have found a new confidence and drive to carry the conversation.
“It depends on my mood. Sometimes, it takes months, while sometimes, it doesn’t even take five minutes.”
“Not even five minutes? I can’t believe it.”
“You don’t believe me? Well, I can prove it,” I reply as a dastardly plan begins to take shape in my head.
You know what, you weren’t supposed to crack the mystery. You were supposed to scratch your head, claw at your face, admit defeat, and ask me to tell you the solution. This was my story. This was supposed to be my crowning moment, my spot in the limelight. You took all of it away from me. The least I could do is return the favour by giving you the mindfuck of a lifetime.
“In fact, I’ll tell you a story right now,” I say, taking my seat again, with a the devilish grin on my face.
And so, I begin my story:
“Picture this: You and I. Sitting at a bar. You order a drink of your choice. I ordered orange juice. You know nothing about me, except for the fact that I am a writer…”